Is it the Year of Mobile Yet?

Like most marketers, I’ve been watching the mobile industry for the past few years, waiting for it to gain traction as a marketing discipline. This week my patience led me to Mobile University 101 in Chicago; a one-day dive into the basics of mobile and its potential for marketing. The question on the minds of the well-dressed crowd of marketers attending was: “Is this finally the year of mobile?” The answer is both yes, and no. Here’s what I think has been holding mobile back from being adopted as a wide-spread marketing tactic: perspective.

Note: For additional insights, take some time to read the tweet stream from Mobile University.

What Mobile is Not

If you hang around advertising agency and corporate types (not that there’s anything wrong with that) it won’t be long before you hear the word ‘silo.’ In the real world, a silo is where you store stuff, like grain. In the marketing world, silo is a metaphor for separating things into self-contained units. In silos, things don’t get mixed up. They stand alone and separate. There are company silos, likes sales, marketing and manufacturing all operating independently from each other. There are marketing silos, like online and offline, broadcast and print, TV and Cable. And here’s where mobile doesn’t belong; in a silo.

It’s very tempting to separate mobile from the other marketing storehouses into its own silo, because it mostly all takes place on a mobile device. But mobile marketing is not a silo like television or newspaper. Think of mobile more like a landscape, with several mobile floras combining into a diverse marketing panorama.

How can you possibly stick all these things into the same silo?

And Now, for the Good News

First, let me break the bad news: the mobile picture will not get any clearer for a while. The landscape is evolving. The floras are still maturing. New species are being developed. The picture remains blurry. And really, that’s good for you.

Because where there is obscurity and confusion, there is hesitancy. That’s what’s happening right now. A wait-and-see attitude proliferate the general business population because things are difficult to understand. “Let’s just wait until this picture clears up.” “Let’s wait until we understand this better.” But that’s just like saying, “Let’s just wait until we have no tactical advantage.”

The Time for Mobile is Now

The joke in marketing for the past 4-5 years is that we keep waiting for “The Year of Mobile.” What we’re really looking for is permission to move forward into this mysterious new country. “Is it safe yet?” We’re looking for safety in numbers so that our mistakes aren’t so clearly evident. Let someone else be Lewis and Clark, we’ll take the wagon train later.

But Andrew Koven gave us the right perspective on the final panel of the day at Mobile University 101. Koven is the President of E-Commerce and Customer Experience at Steve Madden Shoes. He said that “There is no year of mobile. But it’s time for mobile.”

And it is time. Time for you to jump in. The barriers to entry are minimal, and the cost can be surprisingly low. There are some small business applications available for as little as $20 a month. Don’t just admire the landscape, be the landscaper.

Are you ready to try mobile? What’s your perspective?

About the Author

Jay Ehret is Chief Officer of Awesomeness at The Marketing Spot, a marketing consulting firm in Waco, Texas. He turns entrepreneurs into marketers and transforms businesses in to brands. He blogs at The Marketing Spot Blog.

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About Jay Ehret

7 Responses to “Is it the Year of Mobile Yet?”

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  1. Doug Saylor says:

    Great post, Jay. Google Places now has this “scattered ink” symbol called a QR that is designed to take prospects to your Google business web site when they scan it with their mobile phone. Since we are irrigation contractors, do you think we and other mobile tradesmen would benefit by incorporating the QR symbol in our truck’s signage?

    It looks like it might give the interested prospect access to way more information than could be gleaned from a truck–if they didn’t have an accident while scanning.

  2. Jay Ehret says:

    Doug, QR symbols haven’t yet gained widespread attraction with the general public yet. So my advice would be to put it on your truck only if it doesn’t cost much. But if you do, make sure the code leads prospects to information they would want from you.

    What might be better for you and your industry is the use of short codes & SMS (text messaging). What if you put a mssage on the side of your truck that said “Text ‘water’ to 11111 to receive $100 off our service” or “for free tips to cut your monthly water bill by 25%.”

  3. Hugh Jedwil says:

    Jay, thanks for attending the Heartland Mobile Council’s MobiU! The last panel was a good one for providing perspective. Coming from the corporate world, I attest to the silo’s that large companies like Procter & Gamble have. Most marketers go along with it – a small few challenge it and breakthrough.

    I’d say the time for mobile is now, but you should make sure you’re with the right mobile company. Without the proper guidance, we both know you can have anything from a great experience to a poor one or mediocre. The industry is experiencing massive growth with thousands of mobile companies already, but the key is to properly guide marketers/business through the experience.

    For a smaller company, this can be a mobile tech company with good prior client experiences and a broad tech platform. For larger companies, there’s more client management needed to help navigate through all the possibilities. When I did the first mobile-integrated campaign at P&G, I worked directly with the mobile tech guys and it was unbelievably painful. My former colleagues are not into that and will use agencies.

    So we must educate the marketers on how to use mobile strategically and educate the agencies on how to build and execute a healthy mobile engagement. That’s the work we’re doing at the Heartland Mobile Council. Would love your thoughts on this.

  4. Jay Ehret says:

    Hugh,
    I agree that education is needed. The question is then, where do you get it? I’m glad to see that the Heartland Mobile Council is developing a learning center (http://heartlandmobilecouncil.org/learning-center/) and really that the HMC exists at all. Will be watching and learning from the content you add there. I would encourage the HMC to help businesses of all sizes and include small business case studies.

    I think a word of caution is also in order. As mobile marketing comes of age, I would hate to see it surrounded by the hype and guru-ism that followed the rise of social media marketing. Organizations such as Heartland Mobile Council must take the lead in education to counter some of the wild and incredible claims that are sure to follow. That’s something that was missing from social media.

  5. MerlinUWard says:

    Jay, just ran across this article. It’s a year later, what are your thoughts on “The Year of Mobile” now?

    My company has just declared 2011 The Year of Mobile because of the explosive growth since the end of 2010. in mobile websites, QR codes, applications, and the growth of iPhone and Android.

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